Plaque: Cleopatra's needle - war damage
The scars that disfigure the pedestal of the obelisk, the bases of the sphinxes, and the right hand sphinx, were caused by fragments of a bomb dropped in the roadway close to this spot, in the first raid on London by German aeroplanes a few minutes before midnight on Tuesday 4th September 1917.
Londonist have a eye-witness account of this event.
Site: Cleopatra's needle (3 memorials)
WC2, Victoria Embankment
A misnomer since there is no connection with Cleopatra at all. In 1500 BC Pharaoh Thothmes erected two red granite obelisks at Heliopolis. The Romans took them to Alexandria in 12 BC where an earthquake brought them down. In 1819, following Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Nile, Britain was presented with this (near-buried) obelisk by the Viceroy of Egypt. It was not until 1877 that funds had been raised for shipment to London, which involved building a pontoon barge around the stone.
The 'Cleopatra' was not a lucky ship; it was holed and sunk during the launch. Salvaged, it was then almost lost in the Bay of Biscay in a storm when the barge broke loose from the towing steamer, the 'Olga'. 6 members of the Olga crew died as they tried to board the Cleopatra to bring it under control. But eventually it reached London and the obelisk was erected on a plinth containing a time capsule from that era. Its mate was given to the States and erected in Central Park, New York in 1881. The Cleopatra's needle in Place de la Concorde, Paris is also one of a pair but its mate is still in situ in Luxor.
2020: Reviewing a book on archaeology Tom Holland wrote "The shipping of obelisks to Paris, London and New York provided a brutally castratory metaphor for the way in which scholars from distant lands took ownership of the study of Egypt's past."